Where to start: Branding your project

This week marks the first sprint of our rework of our Virtual Patient system, and the focus of these first two weeks is to establish the branding that the project will conform to and be associated with in all future sprints and across all usage once it is complete.

Branding a project like this is not as simple as creating a fancy logo and stamping on everything like a hot-iron brand – it is more creating a persona that you want the product to project to its users, and then wrapping every feature up in it. This sounds a daunting task, so where it start?

 

99 Designs have an excellent Essential Branding Checklist which offers some great advice for getting started. The first point to consider is what your brand should stand for.

Before you can create assets to spread your message, you need to know what your message is! Think about what your project is trying to achieve, who it is designed for and what makes it different from it’s competitors. You can even go into as much detail as creating a long list of brand “key value drivers” which identify features of the product and emotional and functional benefits that add value to your product for your customer, which will help you express and communicate what your brand (and your product) is all about.

 

The next step is to think about what your brand should look like. A good starting place is to do an online image search for existing logos for projects similar to yours. This will help you to identify things which work and things which don’t. Become familiar with any common iconography in use in your field, and you will be able to start to consider how to associate your product with it, whilst standing out as individual at the same time.

You will also need to define a brand personality. Think of your product as a person – what characteristics would you use to describe it? Should it be masculine or feminine, trendy or traditional, playful or serious? These descriptions will help to shape the visuals and colour schemes of your brand, but will also be important when it comes to writing every bit of copy for your product, not just the big paragraphs of text, but the choice of vocabulary for the simpler actions across your site such as “log in” as well.

 

Once you know the message you are trying to get across, who to and how existing products are doing it, its probably time to create your core assets. Obviously the most important thing people consider and want to create when branding is the logo. It has often been suggested that you should design logos in black and white to begin with, which seems like a good idea as you can focus on the pure icongraphy of the image rather than getting distracted by colour schemes at the same time. It also helps to see what your logo could look like for black and white print too!

After the logo, you will need to define a colour scheme, fonts and other general imagery to be used across your project. It is helpful now if you have chosen a name and tag line if relevant, but in a project like our Virtual Patient, I wouldn’t say it is essential to the message we are trying to convey.

Depending on what your project is, you will probably need to design a web interface for it (which is where knowing your project name to purchase domain names comes in handy!). Ensure that your site design is consistent with your branding personality in both it’s aesthetics and its vocabulary. You may also need to create a host of other assets here including letter-headers, business cards, t shirt designs, email signatures etc… depending on what your project requires.

 

Just remember, in branding consistency is key – if you stick to your brand mission, your chosen persona and your aesthetic in every item you produce for the project, you should be able to create a coherent and recognisable brand. I have put together a Branding Builder template based on the 99 Designs essential checklist which I will be working to fill out this week as I begin to create the Virtual Patient brand, you are welcome to download a copy of it yourself if it will help you to begin branding your own future projects.

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